Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 14

Chechen People’s Assembly Chairman Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov on March 30 called for the withdrawal of all Russian federal forces from the republic except for border guards. “I believe that border guards should remain in the republic today,” he said. “Other troops—all regiments and divisions that are present there—can be withdrawn safely. They have been replaced by local police and security forces. Other troops are not needed there.” According to Interfax, Abdurakhmanov admitted that the federal forces “have provided tangible and priceless assistance in killing bandits” during the antiterrorist operation, but said that the Chechen police and security forces are so powerful now that there is “no room for militant activities” in Chechnya. He cited statistics to prove that the number of terrorist attacks and murders in Chechnya is currently the lowest in the entire Southern Federal District. “There is none of the tension that used to be here,” Abdurakhmanov said. “Some militants, who have dispersed to various districts and villages, might step up their activities” if they again receive financing from abroad, he said, while insisting that most militants had moved to the republics neighboring Chechnya. “I can be absolutely confident about this: they are outside Chechnya,” he said. “I would not like to insult our neighbors and would not name these republics, but you can guess yourselves.”

Commenting on Abdurakhmanov’s demarche, Vladimir Mukhin wrote in the April 3 edition of Nezavisimaya gazeta that it was the first statement in recent years by a member Chechnya’s pro-Moscow regime suggesting the “radical demilitarization of the republic.” Earlier, Mukhin noted Chechen President Alu Alkhanov and Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov had demanded the withdrawal of “superfluous” troops but agreed to leave the federal Defense Ministry’s 42d Motorized Rifle Division and the 46th Brigade of the federal Interior Ministry’s Interior Troops in Chechnya permanently.

Mukhin also noted that on March 31, the day after Abdurakhmanov’s call for the removal of federal troops, he criticized the federal authorities on the issue of oil revenues during a republican parliamentary session devoted to the problems of the oil and gas complex. Abdurakhmanov complained that the Russian state oil company Rosneft gets 17 billion rubles from Chechen oil while the republic itself gets only 300 million rubles and insisted that the issue be taken up with “the Russian Federation leadership.” The first deputy chairman of the People’s Assembly, Zambek Zalzaev, made similar comments on March 20 (see Chechnya Weekly, March 23).

According to Mukhin, Abdurakhmanov criticism of the federal authorities came just one day after a March 29 meeting in the Kremlin between the Chechen leadership and the Russian presidential staff to complete the fifth draft of the treaty on the delimitation of powers between the federal center and Chechnya. “As is known, there is not a consensus of opinion between Moscow and Grozny concerning the text of the treaty,” Mukhin wrote. “The Kremlin asserts the principle of centralizing the management of Chechnya; Grozny wants greater independence. It is evidently still inconvenient for Alu Alkhanov and the recently-appointed head of the government Ramzan Kadyrov to speak of this. Similar ideas are successfully being ventilated by the recently elected leader of Chechnya’s parliament.”

According to Mukhin, the Kremlin is not happy about these initiatives coming out of Grozny. He reported that the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, Dmitry Kozak, said on March 31 that Moscow had recently sent the new draft treaty on the delimitation of powers between the federal center and Chechnya to Grozny and that the federal authorities were expecting “specific proposals” from the Chechen government before April 20. Kozak added that the most recent Chechen draft, dating back to last July 13, contained “unacceptable positions.” Meanwhile, two senior federal security official—Police Colonel General, Arkady Yedelev, who heads the Regional Operations Headquarters for Management of the Counterterrorist Operation (ROSH), and Colonel General Nikolai Rogozhkin, commander-in-chief of the Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops – suggested that it is too early to transfer responsibility for security in Chechnya over to local police and security forces.

Thus the arguments between Moscow and Grozny over the treaty on the delimitation of powers between the federal center and Chechnya “are flaring up with new force,” Mukhin concluded. “It should be remembered that it was exactly these kinds of contradictions that resulted in the separatist General Dzhokhar Dudaev’s accession to power in Chechnya at the start of the 1990s. True, these are different times. And the regime in Moscow is a bit stronger than it was then. However, this has no effect whatever on the essence of the contradictions that have accumulated in Chechnya during post-Soviet times, which have engendered two civil wars in the North Caucasus, and which have been unsolvable for more than 15 years now.”